Thepestadvice.com is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
How do you get rid of ants? Found throughout the world, this extremely successful group of insects routinely becomes a plague in warmer weather. If they’d stay outside where they’re supposed to be, they might not be such a problem. But unfortunately, these insects don’t respect our boundaries. They will often come inside homes and make a real nuisance of themselves. And some species can even cause structural damage to your home.
So if you’re looking for the best ways to get these critters out of your home, you’ve come to the right place. But because they come in so many different species, with different preferences and behaviors, there are a variety of different methods and products you can use to keep them out.
Why Do I Have Ants?
If legions of foraging bugs have invaded your home, you may be wondering what you did to deserve this. It’s a good question; understanding why they came into your home in the first place can help you to get rid of them and make sure that they never come back.
Understanding why ants came into your home in the first place can help you to get rid of them and make sure that they never come back.
Ants are complicated creatures with a sophisticated social organization, but ultimately, their needs are relatively simple. If pests are coming inside your home, they are searching for of one or more of these basic needs:
It’s the same things that every animal on earth needs, and the reason why humans build houses in the first place. But we build our homes to provide for our needs, not for those of insects.
Human homes can provide these insects with some or all of their basic needs. But fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to make your home less attractive to them. Both preventative measures and more aggressive treatments can be used to drive the bugs away.
How Do You Get Rid Of Ants?
Prevent The Problem Before It Starts
Like many things in life, pest control is most effective when used before a problem starts. There’s a lot you can do to make your home less attractive to pests in the first place. And if you never develop a problem in your home, you’ll never need to spend time and money on more aggressive treatments.
Even if you already have ants in your home, these preventive measures can help to stop the problem from getting worse. Also, when you finally do chase the bugs out of your home, you’ll want to employ these preventive measures to make sure that they never come back.
In short, here are the best ways to keep ants out of your home:
- Clean Your Kitchen
- Sealed Food Containers
- Regular Vacuuming
- Sealed Trash Bins
- Seal Home Entry Ways
- Dry Out Moist Areas
- Clear Vegetation
- Remove Wood Piles
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Liquid Ant Bait or Stations
- Insecticide Spray
- Clean Your Kitchen
Food is one of the major driving forces in an ant’s life. Foragers exist for the sole purpose of feeding the rest of the colony. They can eat a wide range of different foods, and their preferences vary from species to species and even from one colony to another. But in general, they will eat more or less anything that people eat, along with a lot of things we won’t.
Food spills and crumbs on kitchen counters and surfaces are a major food source for ants in a home. Clean your house thoroughly, paying particular attention to the kitchen and anywhere else food is prepared or served. Even the smallest spill or dropped morsel can provide plenty of food for foraging workers. Stop feeding them, and they’ll have one less reason to come into your home.
- Sealed Food Containers
These invaders aren’t above helping themselves to the food in your kitchen cabinets. Paper and thin plastics won’t keep them out; some species are capable of chewing right through plastic packaging to get at the food inside. Instead, store all your food in hard plastic containers or, ideally, glass.
- Regular Vacuuming
The kitchen is typically an ant’s favorite place to be, thanks to the presence of both food and water. But these bugs can be found almost anywhere in the home, especially if there is food on offer. Regular vacuuming will help pick up any stray crumbs of food that have fallen to the floor, especially if you have carpet. Keep on top of the vacuuming, and you’ll make your home much less attractive to the bugs. This is even more true if you have kids.
- Sealed Trash Bins
Trash bins can easily become an all-you-can-eat buffet for bugs. Household garbage contains both food and moisture that the insects crave. If you live in a municipality that separates food waste from other types of garbage, be especially careful of your food waste bin. Invest in a bin that seals tightly shut, so that they can’t get inside and feast on the delicious garbage you throw away.
- Seal Home Entry Ways
Making your home less attractive to insects is always a good idea. But another effective method is to make it impossible for them to come inside in the first place.
This can be difficult. Ants are very small, and because of their ability to climb walls, you’ll need to think three-dimensionally. Sometimes, they march right into homes through an open door or window. But often, they enter through gaps in the outer walls of the house. Water pipes, air-conditioning vents, dryer ducts – all of these make easy access points into your home. And don’t forget about the foundations of the building. Cracks in the concrete at ground level can be all they need to get inside.
Inspect the outside of your home and seal up any gaps and cracks you find with weatherproof silicone caulk. Not only will this help to keep out ants, but it will also make your home less likely to be invaded by all kinds of other pests.
- Dry Out Moist Areas
Just like any other animal, bugs need water to live. And the hotter the summer, the more water they need. If you have moist areas in and around your home, caused by a dripping faucet or leaking pipe, you’re inviting bugs to come inside and colonize your home.
Take a close look around your house for any sources of water that might attract insects. Pay attention to both the inside and the outside of the building. Water sources outside the home will cause the outdoor population to rise, making it more likely that sooner or later, they’ll find their way inside.
- Clear Vegetation
When they’re not invading people’s houses, ants feed on a variety of food sources, including other insects. For this reason, they can often be found foraging in bushes and shrubs and other locations that attract insects.
But vegetation in your garden can also serve as a highway for the bugs to reach your home. If you have trailing branches and bushes that reach the walls of your house, trim them back. This makes it harder for critters to find their way inside.
- Remove Woodpiles
A woodpile against the side of the house provides an ideal habitat for certain pests. Carpenter ants, for instance, make their nests in wood, and a woodpile makes an excellent location for them to establish a territory. But they’re not the only ones. Damp wood, particularly if it is in contact with soil, can become an ideal nest site for many different species.
Getting rid of woodpiles completely will help to make your property less attractive. But if that’s not possible, at least move the woodpile away from the house. Ideally, move it as far away as you possibly can to reduce the chances of insects finding their way inside.
Know Your Enemy
Prevention is an essential part of pest control. But sometimes, it’s not enough. Even if you follow all the steps above, you may still find that insects are getting inside your home.
The reasons for this can be complex. This is a very diverse group of insects, with over 12,000 different types identified. Sometimes, to understand why you have pests indoors, it can be necessary to figure out what species you’re dealing with. So here’s a quick rundown of some of the species most likely to invade your home:
If you’re reading this article, you already know that you don’t want ants inside your house. You especially don’t want the carpenter variety. The largest species in North America, carpenter ants can grow up to three-quarters of an inch in length.
But the main problem with carpenters is their habit of building nests in wood. The wood doesn’t need to be rotten, either. A carpenter’s jaws are powerful enough to carve out a nest in a solid wooden beam. If left untreated, the tunnels they bore through the wood can weaken the beams of your house and cause structural damage.
Carpenters have multiple nests, which makes them extremely difficult to treat by yourself. The trick is to find their nests and treat them directly. Dusts and pesticide sprays are often the only options. You may even need to drill into walls to treat the nest directly.
Best product to treat Carpenter Ants: Tim-bor Professional Insecticide and Fungicide
In detached homes, Pharaoh ants are mercifully rare. These troublesome pests are more common in apartment buildings and industrial facilities. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be found in detached properties too.
These guys are tiny – approximately 0.07 inches in length. But small creatures can be a big nuisance. A Pharaoh nest contains multiple queens. If the nest becomes stressed, these queens will leave the nest with a group of workers to support them and begin a new settlement elsewhere. This process, called budding, can turn one nest into six, seven, or eight new territories, causing the insects to spread throughout the structure quickly. And this budding process can be triggered by attempts to control the infestation.
NEVER spray Pharaohs with anything. That includes household cleaners such as bleach. They will perceive this as an attack, and the swarm will split and spread. The only truly effective treatment for Pharaohs is to use an edible poison that the adults will carry back to the nest. This way, they’ll never realize that you are trying to kill them.
Best product to treat Pharaoh Ants: Maxforce Quantum Liquid
This extremely common species gets its name from its habit of building nests under concrete slabs and sidewalks. Their nests can be relatively easy to spot thanks to their practice of building small mounds of sandy soil at entrances and exits.
The cheapest and most environmentally friendly way of dealing with a visible settlement like this is by pouring boiling water on top of it. While the water may not reach the queen and her brood, it will certainly kill a lot of workers and considerably slow down the spread of the population. Of course, if you see these creatures indoors, you may not know where their nest is. In that case, the best option is to use bait.
Odorous House Ants
Another common species, this small black bug gets its name from the smell they emit when crushed. It’s a kind of rotten coconut odor. This is one of the easier bugs to drive out of your home, as you can use either baits or sprays on this pest. Also, preventative measures such as cleaning up your kitchen will have a huge impact on the number of bugs you see in your house.
Best product to treat Odorous House Ants: Terro T300 Liquid Baits
Unless you’re an entomologist or some other kind of expert, it can be difficult to tell these small (0.15 inch) black ants from their odorous house cousins. Moisture ants get their name from their attraction to moist areas, meaning they are often found in kitchens and bathrooms where water pipes are located. These creatures not only need a lot of water to drink, but they need areas of high humidity in which to build their nests. Damp soil is a great location for them, but rotten wood can also provide them with a home. The best strategy to get rid of this species is to reduce moist areas, but both baits and sprays can also help knock the population down.
Best Product to treat Moisture Ants: Advion Gel
This type is most commonly found outside, where they make large nests in the soil. Red to brown in color and around 1/4 inch in length, these critters aggressively defend their nests which are easily identified by the mounds of soil they construct. As the name suggests, they can deliver a painful burning sting. Unfortunately, fire ants can wander into buildings from outside, and have even been known to build nests under buildings and then emerge indoors. Definitely not something you want to have to deal with.
Best product to treat Fire Ants: Advion Fire Ant Bait
These critters thrive outside. While they may come indoors to forage for food or water, they only live in soil and won’t live inside a building. Argentine ants create gigantic colonies, or supercolonies, with one in California spread over 560 miles!
Spraying for Argentine ants is generally impractical due to the massive size of the colonies, and has even been found to increase egg production in some cases. So the best course of action to deal with them is to bait for them.
Best product to treat Argentine Ants: Maxforce FC
Fun fact: large as the Californian Argentine ant colony is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this species. Genetic research on the Californian colony found that it is closely related to similarly massive colonies in Europe and Japan, forming one gigantic global supercolony with billions of individual members!
Now you know more about ants than you probably ever wanted to know, it’s time to look at some treatment methods for getting them out of your house. Remember that the treatment method can vary according to the species you’re dealing with. While some treatments are more or less effective against all breeds, others are not. And sometimes, what works well against one type of ant can actually make the problem worse if used against a different species.
So with that said, let’s begin with some of the more environmentally friendly treatments available. Often, these are enough to solve your problem by themselves. In any case, it’s a good place to start by doing the least amount of harm possible. Only if these treatments fail will it be necessary to attempt more aggressive methods.
- Diatomaceous Earth
It may look like harmless white powder, but people have been using diatomaceous earth as an effective treatment against insects for decades. While it feels fine to the touch, diatomaceous earth is actually made up of millions of sharp shards that will lacerate the exoskeleton of any insect that comes into contact with it. This causes them to dehydrate and die. With their high moisture requirements, ants are very susceptible to this method of control.
The beauty of diatomaceous earth is that it isn’t harmful to humans or other mammals. Food grade diatomaceous earth can even be used in commercial kitchens without any problems.
Diatomaceous earth is best used as a barrier treatment to keep insects away. Don’t spread it too thickly, or else they will simply avoid it.
Borax is more often used as a detergent than an insecticide, but it is known to be a potent stomach poison for bugs. The trick is to mix Borax with powdered sugar at a ratio of three parts of sugar to one part of Borax. Then you place this mixture around the house where workers have been seen foraging. It might be a good idea to put the powder in small containers or bottle caps to keep things neat and tidy.
The ants will find this sweet concoction and eat some of it. More importantly, they will carry it back to the nest and feed it to the queen and the juvenile members of the colony, also known as the brood.
As the only reproductive member of the colony, the queen is crucial to the survival of the nest. For those with a single queen, this is a considerable weakness. If the queen dies, the colony can no longer produce new workers and will die off within a few weeks.
Environmentally friendly treatments are better for both the planet and human health. Often, they can also be cheaper than commercial pesticides. But sometimes, they aren’t enough. If you have a persistent problem, and you’ve tried every other method of controlling the pesky invaders with no luck, it may be time to consider more aggressive treatments or looking for a professional exterminator near you.
Note that, if used correctly, commercially available pesticides aren’t unsafe. But before performing any treatment with an insecticide, make sure you read the label and follow all instructions carefully.
This method of treatment has the advantage that the ants themselves do most of the work. You may not know where the colony is, but with bait products, you may not need to. The workers will carry the poison back to the queen by themselves, allowing it to spread throughout the population and kill off the colony from the inside.
Before using any insecticide read the label first and follow the instructions carefully.
Another nice thing about baits is their low toxicity. These products are targeted solely at ants, and sometimes only specific types. This makes them extremely safe to use and protects nontarget insects from being killed by a treatment aimed at ants.
To be effective, the foragers need to find and consume the mixture. The best way to ensure that they do this is to set ant bait in areas where you’ve seen them foraging. It also helps to clean your house thoroughly and make sure that no other food sources are available to them. This will ensure that they consume more of the bait and begin to die off quicker.
Most commercially available baits aren’t harmful to people or pets unless consumed in massive quantities. Still, it’s a good idea to try to avoid any unintentional exposure. For this reason, pre-filled stations such as Terro T300 Liquid Baits can be a good choice. The small plastic containers couldn’t be easier to use. Just twist off the tab that keeps the liquid inside and set the station down in areas where you have seen workers foraging. The sweet liquid bait is highly attractive to many different species, and the active ingredient won’t kill the pests before they have time to bring it back to the nest and pass it on to their sisters.
Having the bait inside the station prevents any mess from accidental spills. It also helps to keep curious children and pets away from the pesticide. However, the stations limit where you can place the bait. Remember that ants can walk vertically up walls just as easily as they walk along the ground, and so they are often found in high kitchen cabinets and other areas where it can be difficult to place a station.
For that reason, you may have better results with a gel such as Advion Ant Bait. This product comes in disposable plastic syringes with a narrow tip that is perfect for applying the gel into cracks and crevices where ants will find it, but children and pets won’t. This gel bait is often used by professionals in the pest control field, thanks to its efficacy against a broad range of species and the versatility of its application method. However, applying a bait like Advion requires more work than putting down some prefilled stations. Be ready to get your hands dirty – literally. Gel baits are often sticky and can be messy to work with, so a pair of gloves is highly recommended. Also, be aware that gels tend to harden over time and become ineffective after a month or two. At this point, you’ll have to chip off the hardened mixture from wherever you applied it, which is nobody’s idea of fun.
Whichever kind of bait you choose, you can rest assured in the knowledge that, no matter what type you’re dealing with, baits can be an effective solution. For some species, such as Pharaoh and Argentine, these potions are really the only treatment option available. And even for species that are less responsive to baiting, at least you can be confident that you’re not making the problem worse.
Unfortunately, not all ants respond well to baits. Carpenter ants, in particular, can be quite selective when it comes to food preferences and often respond poorly to these mixtures. And even if you find a formula that’s attractive to the species in your house, there’s no guarantee it will stay that way. The food preferences of a population change throughout the year. So what works one day may suddenly become ineffective the next.
Another issue with these products is that they can take a long time to work. This is by design. The idea is that the poison will have time to spread throughout the colony before the workers start to die off in large numbers. But that’s small comfort if you’re plagued by large numbers of critters inside your property. If you want quick results, a pesticide spray is often the best way to achieve them.
When it comes to carpenters, your best option is Tim-bor Professional Insecticide and Fungicide. This product can be applied as a dust, a spray, or a foam, making it extremely versatile. Often applied during the construction of new houses, it not only prevents insect infestation but also arrests the growth of wood-destroying fungi. It can also be used to treat a carpenter nest directly. Of course, that means you’ll have to find the nest, which can be tricky.
Other types besides carpenters can also be sprayed. Ortho Home Defense is an excellent product that is effective on a wide range of ants and other insects. The spray not only kills them on contact, but also creates a barrier that will kill any bugs that try to cross it long after the spray has dried. While the manufacturer claims this barrier can be effective for 12 months, you may find you need to reapply every three months or so. Still, it’s an effective treatment that not only kills ants but also destroys the trails that they use to get indoors.
Remember: never spray anything for Pharaoh ants! Even household cleaners will cause Pharaoh colonies to bud and spread. For Pharaohs, and usually for Argentine ants too, baiting is always a better option.
Best Products To Get Rid Of Ants
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably realized that when it comes to ants, no one product is universally the best. The specific species you’re dealing with makes a massive difference as to what kind of product is best to use. You also need to think about where you need to perform the treatment, inside or outside the building, and what you and your family might be exposed to during treatment.
But the best treatment for any of these creatures, no matter the specific type, is to make your home less attractive in the first place. This means cleaning up so that there is no food or water to forage for inside your property. It means storing your food in sealed containers so that the insects can’t get inside. It also means sealing up any gaps and cracks in your house to keep them on the outside.
The best treatment for ants is to make your home less attractive in the first place
Once you’ve tried all of these preventative measures, diatomaceous earth and Borax offer great non-toxic solutions to most problems. Only if these methods prove ineffective should you start looking toward commercial pesticides. Generally, it’s preferable to use bait rather than a spray, since the bait is far less harmful both to the environment and to non target animals. However, not all species can be dealt with through the use of bait. Sometimes, a pesticide spray may be the only option.
Still Stuck With Ants?
Dial (866) 250-4176 for a free quote! We will help you pick the best possible Pest Extermination Service Provider in your area.